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Multilingual Mailing Lists – Automagically!

As a part of ICANN’s commitment to greater access to the work of the community by non-English speakers, an effort to create a reliable, automated way to provide machine translated email lists has been under development for some time now. An interface was designed and created from scratch through a collaborative effort of the At-Large staff and ICANN IT’s Kent Crispin, with support and input from the ICANN Translation Committee; the interface has undergone extensive testing and is now entering production use. Thanks go out to the many testers (both staff and community members) who helped work out the bugs – and to the non-English-fluent members of the community who have patiently waited for the service to become available.

The first community to benefit will be the Regional At-Large Organisations (“RALOs”) in Africa (“AFRALO”) and Latin America and the Caribbean (“LACRALO”). The translation service will go live for both in October.

The interface can be used one of two ways:

It can be a one-way translation output to a mailing list archive from an English-only list, allowing non-English readers to follow discussions of public discussions of ICANN bodies in several languages, or;

It can be enabled as a two-way interface, allowing non-English postings to be read as English, and vice-versa.

Since machine translation is imperfect, the results vary – but in testing it has been found that the translation is generally sufficient to allow the reader to at least understand the general idea the poster in the other language is trying to convey. The interface also provides a URL link to the original posting, so those who can partially read the language of the original posting may always review it; this is especially helpful in dealing with imprecise translations.

Not every language is available – but more are regularly being added by SYSTRAN, the provider of the machine translation (SYSTRAN is the same engine used for this purpose by other international organisations such as the EU). The list of languages is as follows:

English <> Arabic

French <> Dutch

English <> Chinese

French <> German

English <> Dutch

French <> Italian

English <> French

French <> Portuguese

English <> German

French <> Spanish

English <> Italian

English <> Korean

English <> Japanese

English <> Portuguese

English <> Russian

English <> Spanish

English <> Greek

If you are interested in more information please contact the At-Large Staff at